Thursday, January 26, 2012


Egypt is often unbelievable.

This fall we traveled through Ismailia.  This is the Suez Canal city where the planners stayed during the construction.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  In the guidebook, it looked very European in style so I was a bit let down that it was still totally Egyptian.

One of the reasons for going was its museum.  We were the only visitors that morning.  Shelf after shelf of mind-blowing antiquities.  It was so worth the effort.

Do you see the sarcophagus?  It is a transitional piece between the Ancient Egyptian and the Roman.  The body is in the typical style.  However, the face looks more like Alexander the Great than King Tut.  I loved seeing something so instructive about the different Egyptian ages and stages.

I learned in Ismailia why we should all be grateful for traffic jams in Cairo.  If there was as much open road in the capital, as there is in Ismalia, then every driver would be zooming 70 miles per hour.  Yes, I told every taxi driver to slow down or I was going to throw up.  Alhumdulillah for crowded streets. 

We didn't only take taxis.  My husband took a ride from a man...a stranger in his private car...even though you're not supposed to take rides from strangers.  He told us we could cross the Suez by ferry as a fun little trip.  This nice man drove us to the spot just because he was a nice man.  He was right.  Going over the Suez was this wonderfully freeing moment (and it cost us nothing which is the best kind of free there is).

We crossed over; and as fans of Eat, Pray, Love know, that's "attraversiamo" in Italian.  We crossed over for no good reason.  We celebrated that fact by drinking guava juice and watching Mr. Boo unintentionally cover himself in ice cream.

There was a war memorial a short hike away so off we went.  Some whiney minutes later, we came to the entrance of the war memorial.  In we went because we'd come this far so we might as well go all the way.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that it wasn't good logic.  It kept being a long way to walk.  When we got there, it was an insane construction of the butt of a gun with a bayonet sticking out of it.  I'd walked a million miles for an ode to weaponry.

The walk back was decidely grumpy; whiney gives way to grumpy after about half an hour of a 6-year-old's complaints.  I was wondering why I had thought that the ferry ride was a good idea let alone the war memorial.  Down the hill we went.

There was a ferry and there was a large ship going through.  It was American!  How cool!  Our moods changed.  We snapped photos.  The ship's name was "Resolve".  I thought that an appropriate moniker.

We walked onto the ferry boat and waited.  Seemed like we could just leave but yet we waited.  What were we waiting for?

Like a bat out of hell, or a pick-up truck out of a wedding celebration, zoomed a local newlywed couple and their families.  Whooping!  Hollering!  Music blaring.  They boarded the ferry prepared to get the party started. 

So, there we were on a hijacked ferry forced to get down and get funky.  It was wonderful!  I can't even begin to tell you how amazing that moment was.  The pick-up driver was singing into his mic which blared out the speaker on top of his roof.  Men were dancing.  The people clapping. 

It came out of nowhere and was both magical and transformative. 

It suddenly didn't matter how hot it was, or how long a walk we had suffered.  We were on the Love Boat sailing across the Suez.

I take pictures when I'm happy.  I took so many pictures of that moment.  It will remain inshahallah as one of my best memories of Egypt.  

When we got to the other side, the happy couple marched off the boat with their wedding procession.  We were all happy and even a bit giddy.  Immediately after enjoying that good feeling a fight suddenly broke out between two of the party goers and we had to make a run for it.

Egypt can be absolutely unbelievable.

Last night, it was true once again.  Our neighborhood was adjusting to the one year anniversary of the Revolution when gunfire erupted.  It was definately guns.  I stopped and listened then moved a sick Mr. Boo from his bed to ours.  No, he couldn't be near any windows.

I called for my husband.  He had been sleeping after dinner.  He woke with a start and realized that this was not normal.  This was unusual; definately unbelievable.  In fact, that continuous amount of gun firing had never happened before in our little area next to the pyramids. 

For about half and hour, it wouldn't stop.  It surrounded us.  I really was scared.  There were no police coming.  We were alone.  I did have Twitter and used it to cope.  You can read more about it there.

The funny thing is, many people on-line didn't believe me.  They were so sure that it couldn't be happening because no one else had reported it.  They discounted me.

Later, Twitter reports of women being sexually assaulted in Tahrir were also scrutinized.  Who were they?  Were they Egyptian or foreign?  As if it mattered. 

What I have come to see is that Egypt is often unbelievable.  It changes so quickly from awful to wonderful; from celebratory to insane.  As much as it feels unsettling to live amidst unimaginable change, it keeps me feeling alive.  I have never felt more alive than when I'm forced to live in the "now" of Egypt.

Either unbelievably good or bad, Egypt will keep you feeling the truth of "inshahallah".


Jaime Brown said...

After hardship there is ease. After comfortability there is worry. After joy there is fear.

Salaamo alaikum,

It's amazing how you seem to get yourself into and out of so many situations--sometimes easily, sometimes unknowingly, and sometimes with the authority of a Queen Bee.

This is one of my favorite posts by you. It really brings us on this ride of different emotions, places (physically and mentally) and as always, reflective words of Almighty Allah at the end.


Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam JB,

I'm so glad you wrote! I did put this post out there wondering if it would resonnate with anyone else...or even make sense.

Subhanallah for this life. I know what you mean about my situations. The funny thing is that I was just saying to my mom last night (right before the gun fight) that I really was done with drama queens. YET! There I was about an hour later trying to figure out if we were all going to die.

"Queen Bee" makes me laugh. I do have a post somewhere entitled "Queen Bee" or at least I used to. I am a leader; not a follower. I really follow Islam but not much else. I can't handle other people living a life in which I'm a supporting player. As is typical in Hollywood (your former home), I'm a star but nobody knows it ;)

Thanks for letting me know you liked this post. FOR YOU I have added more photos.

Alhumdulillah for everything.

Remember: Egypt is relatively close to Morocco and you and your hub are invited anytime.

Um Dayo said...

I loved your description of Ismailia. Techinically, we live in the state of Ismailia, but right on the border of Sharkia. The roads are (usually) open too and people drive like maniacs. It's terrifying sometimes. Also, there are a few military bases and lots and lots of factories in our city (mercedes is one, another is some famous orange supply company called elgibaly) and many times we have heard gunshots. Last night I woke up because they sounded really, really close and I was scared. Thank God it was my night with my husband, because I really could not have slept otherwise (both because he was here for protection and to explain the situation). Apparently, sometimes when people come around acting suspicious, the guards at the factories will fire a few shots in the air as a warning and when the guards of other factories hear them, they fire a few, too, for good measure (?) Also, a few days back, maybe a week, the bedouins who currently stay outside our city kidnapped a very wealthy sand dealer and demanded 2,000,000 pounds for he and his uncle or nephew or something. In response, the family closed all the gates in the city to stop anyone from getting in our out so they could find the men. Eventually, they did convince them to let them go. The police laughed at the family and the people demanding help and said there were too many people to control. The military said it wasn't their place but intervened anyway. Craziness!

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom UmDayo,

Thanks for writing. For one thing, it helped me to see I'd misspelled "Islaimia". It just looks like toooo many 'i's.

Crazy world you/we live in, eh? Your story of the guns firing and kidnapping was cuckoo...yet I believe you. Egypt has moments and places were this happens.

For the most part though, I think Egypt is saner than America. Maybe the craziness is on the outside here and it's in the inside in the U.S. I'd rather live in a place where you know the strangeness rather than NOT knowing it. It's an easier fear to deal long as I have a husband ready to do battle with anyone who needs it.

Keep trusting in Allah (and know where your big stick is).